kilometer magazine

celebrating european cars and motorcycles


km : Feature Article


7 May 2014

Ahhh, the “restomod.” Raising the subject of taking a classic car, ripping out its guts and replacing them with modern components is one of the topics that you can guarantee will start a spirited discussion at best and an outright fistfight at worst when you raise it in a crowd of car people. Proponents will tell you that restomodding allows you to have the best of both worlds when it comes to classic cars – you get all the style and beauty of a classic with modern powerplants, decent brakes, and all the other benefits of driving a car that’s not made from 50 or 60 year old technology. Opponents will tell you that you’re destroying the integrity of a classic car, something that can never be recreated as original. Either way, restomods are something that incite the passions of car people and pulling in to your local cars & coffee in a restomodded classic is sure to attract you a lot of attention. If you really want to see people go nuts, we suggest having a look at the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL AMG that’s going to be on offer through RM Auctions as part of their Monaco sale on May 10th.

Yes, you read that right – a 300SL AMG. You don’t usually see those three little letters associated with something as old as a 300SL because AMG wasn’t even founded until 1967 and didn’t start modifying Mercedes-Benz road cars until the early 1970s. Eventually they got so good at producing ballistic Benzes that they were bought by Mercedes-Benz in 1999 and are now an official in-house unit. They now produce a full line of AMG road cars, but they still undertake special projects for special clients from time to time. In this case, the original “special client” was the Sultan of Brunei, who decided that while he really liked the 300SL that it wasn’t quite powerful enough or modern enough for his tastes. So, being the Sultan of Brunei, he called up AMG one day in 1996 and asked them about converting a car to use a modern engine and other modern componentry for his collection. Oh, and while they were at it he asked them to build  four additional cars to the same spec for other members of his family to be able to tootle around their island sultanate with.

EngineThe first step in the process was to replace the heart of the beast with something more modern and powerful. Now, the original straight six as installed in the 300SL was no slouch for the time, making 212 HP. It was also the first production engine to use direct injection, a technology which has made a very big comeback in recent years as it offers both better fuel economy and better power than port injection. The Sultan wanted a modern engine, though, so a modern engine he got. AMG selected their 6.0 Liter M119 V8 engine which was also used in the E60AMG and the famous CLK-LM race car which so dominated the GT1 class in FIA GT racing that the entire class was eventually cancelled. This version of the engine makes 380HP, and will launch the car to an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h, or 155 mph. Putting all of that power to the ground is a Mercedes-Benz W4A four speed automatic transmission.

To accommodate the new engine and transmission, the AMG engineering team also had to re-work the rear suspension. They replaced the original swing arm assembly with the rear axle from a contemporary R129 SL-Class, which was supported by a Bilstein adjust able sport suspension. To complete work at the rear of the car, a set of brakes were borrowed from a W124 E-Class. At the front, power steering replaced the original rack, and a set of brakes from an AMG C36 assured adequate stopping power.


For the rest of the car, a number of upgrades were carried out. On the exterior, both sideview mirrors were replaced with electrically adjustable units, a process which required disassembly and re-wring of the famous Gullwing doors. The fuel filler pipe was relocated to the rear right hand side. Finally, the car was shod with modern tires wrapped around modern AMG style wheels, which are the major visual giveaway to the casual observer that this 300SL is something a little more special than normal.

For the interior, the original seats were replaced with leather trimmed Recaro sport seats fitted with modern three point safety belts. A modern steering wheel was also fitted and the rest of the cabin was trimmed out in leather. In a nod to modern comfort, an air conditioning system was added along with a modern audio system complete with CD changer and a recently added iPod link.


All told, five of these very special cars were completed for the family of the Sultan of Brunei, with an additional six cars being delivered to additional clients between 1996 and 2009 when the project was completed. Of those 11 cars, there were 3 roadsters and 8 coupes with half of the coupes being left hand drive and half right hand drive. According to AMG, each car was built to specific customer specifications, and they do not expect to ever undertake such a project again, so if you want a very special restomod and have the money to spend, we’d recommend contacting RM Auctions before their Monaco Auction on May 10th. This particular car was purchased by a German firm after being built by AMG, and has since been owned and stored in a climate controlled environment by a collector in Hong Kong. It’s covered a scant 500KM since it left the AMG shop in 2001, so this is a chance for the right person to own a very, very special car in incredible condition.

Check out a full gallery of photos of the car by Chester Ng and courtesy of RM Auctions, linked below.



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